Can EcoLiving Be A Feminist Act?
I've often contemplated the ease with which I might blow off environmentalism: the convenience foods I might buy, the disposable plates which would banish the drudgery of dishwashing from my days, the time I could spend kicking my dogs up instead of making things as random as countertop spray, muffin mix, and edible play-dough from scratch. I daydream about a world of transparent labeling and believable certification like that envisioned by Diane MacEachern, a world in which I don't have to worry about greenwashing or toxins or carbon footprints or merchandising and I can just buy my kid a freaking hot lunch. Instead of washing my clothes by beating them on that metaphorical rock.
Even in such a world, though, one in which I could buy my way out of even the least onerous of our household's domestic chores, I think I'd miss out on something fundamental that drives me to grow the basil that I chop into pesto. And it's not just the tradition of garlic-bearing devices that makes me think of my grandmother, my mother, watering their gardens and pinching the tops of our herbs before they flowered. It's the taste of the food. The pleasure of knowing where it came from. Thinking of the sun on my shoulders and the sweat on my forehead while I weeded that basil. And the unbeatable bite on my tongue. No food tastes as good straight off my spoon. No plastic tub ever held it, just a mason jar. My babies both gobbled it up on "noonles" before they could walk. Each bite reminds me of why my mom's friends beg her to skip the Christmas cookies and slide them the true Christmas green.
And yet, it all takes time. The planting, the weeding, the cooking, even the thinking about when and what to plant and cook and eat. Not to mention the thinking about what's safe to serve and store food in. I can see the excitement my grandmothers must have felt when they were liberated from having to make everything they served on their family's tables from scratch. The promise of the artificial whipped topping. They didn't know the health tradeoffs, of course, but they were wise enough to see the value of hours of time to call their own.
So every now and again, my feminist self does, in fact, breathe a deep sigh of alarm at the thought of my Luddite eco-ways. The making of the pancake mix my ownself. The yearning to can. The growing of my own tomatoes, the sourcing of meat straight from a farmer, the trips to distant coops with great bulk bins. Need I go on? Life could be simpler. But not more pleasurable.
And that's where my older brothers kick in for me...hard as it is for me to ever admit that they might be right. We were raised by the same people. Ate the same pickled Jerusalem artichokes my dad was quirky enough to dig out of a field with us. And my brothers? Must have missed the manifesto on how demeaning it is to enjoy your food and think carefully about the planet. Because they are way ahead of me: making their own homebrew, baking their own bread, pickling spicy peppers and cukes, and hosting block parties where each family makes some elaborate, hours-long, involved course of food. I'm not saying they've 100% drunk the green living Kool-Aid, and I'm not sure I ever will, either. But living more simply, making time to make my own food and cleaners so that I know not only where they're sourced and that they are safe, but that they come from my own hands? Is not something I am willing to give up in the name of empowerment.
I wrestle with the challenges inherent in spending more time doing fewer things in a more conscious way, which is why I so loved this month's issue of Brain, Child. Check out the feature story on Eco-Housewives (you have to subscribe, it's not on the website). The interview with Shannon Hayes, author of the Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook is inspiring; she speaks "of 'enlightened homemaking' -- learning to live on less in order to take the time to nourish the family and the planet through home cooking, engaged citizenship, responsible consumption and creative living." Nice, huh? Which is not to say that she hasn't thought carefully about the potential for being shackled to an unfulfilling domestic premise. It's just that Hayes believes that consumerism is the prison that binds women and men to lives on hamster wheels scampering to pay huge mortgages to buy meaningless trinkets.
MamaBird writes about green parenting, cooking, and crafts at SurelyYouNest.